China Covid Protests: Xi’s Largest Test Yet

cc Date20221127, modified,

A rare wave of protest has broken out across China, representing a rare instance of vocal dissent in an otherwise tightly controlled public sphere. Even more notably, protestors in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and Guangzhou have directly targeted national figures (namely President Xi) and even Communist Party rule, rather than restricting their angst to the usual ‘bad apple’ local officials.

Several developments have conspired to to catalyze the protests; they include the death of a 14-year-old girl in quarantine in October, the more recent death of a baby in mid-November after being refused treatment by paramedics, and a deadly residential fire in Urumqi where residents were reportedly prevented from leaving their homes due to quarantine protocol. It is owing to this latter tragedy that Shanghai residents have been gathering on Urumqi Road to stage their protests.

But more broadly, public anger is focused at the regime’s draconian zero-Covid policy, which has throttled economic growth and civil liberties in pursuit of near-zero infection rates. That Chinese citizens are defying the Communist Party’s sprawling control apparatus – risking their own personal well-being as well as that of their family – is a testament to the deep-seated antipathy that has set in over Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy, which has been harsh at the best of times and susceptible to all manners of abuse and negligence at the level of implementation. It’s no coincidence that some of the most heated protests have been in Urumqi (locked down since August 10) and Shanghai (site of a harsh months-long lockdown earlier in the year).

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